Bidding Brisk at County Auction in Ramona Saturday

Not a single computer or lone Crown Vic remained after zealous bidders bought every piece of surplus government property for sale at the Ramona Rodeo Grounds Saturday.

More than 500 registered bidders competed for 375 items, about 80 percent of which were surplus from the County of San Diego, said Mitch McKee of TNT Auctions, the company that ran the sale in a contract with the County. The North County Transit District, the cities of Coronado, Encinitas and National City and the Ramona Municipal Water District also had items for sale.

The auction’s proceeds exceeded $800,000, McKee said. TNT Auctions takes a five percent commission, while the government agencies selling the items collect the rest, McKee said.

The auction catalogue read like an illustrated children’s encyclopedia of cars and trucks—there were school buses and backhoes, cargo vans and forklifts, semi-trucks and bulldozers. There were also smaller miscellanea, such as a pallet of printers and scanners and a microwave.  McKee said multiple bidders competed for every item, with participants travelling from all over the U.S. and Canada for the event.

Such large-scale auctions help local governments make a good profit on their used property, McKee said.

 “Because you bring in a wad of people, there are a lot of bidders on each item, versus just one or two,” McKee said. “Therefore, they compete with each other for each item. Therefore, it brings what the market says it’s worth at that time.”

One of the auction’s featured items, a slick BMW 2007 M-6 convertible that was seized by the National City police, was one of many vehicles that provoked a bidding war, McKee said.

The bidding topped out at $35,500. Buyers also pay a 10 percent fee on each auction item, McKee said.

San Diego County sold about 120 vehicles at the auction, including Ford Tauruses and Crown Victorias from the Sheriff’s Department, said the County’s fleet coordinator, Don Holland.  

The County fleet is one of the largest collections of government vehicles in the state, and deciding when to replace or retire vehicles requires a complex analysis that takes into account the price of a new vehicle, the value the car can get at auction if sold before it’s too old and the County’s need for a reliable fleet, among other factors,  Holland said.

A Crown Victoria from the Sheriff’s Department is usually sold when it has 90,000 or 100,000 miles, Holland said.

“This is an emergency response vehicle; they need to be reliable, they need to perform on a higher level for public safety, so we want to get rid of them before they start breaking,” Holland said.

As vehicles age and are sold at auction, the County will slowly build a more fuel efficient fleet that takes advantage of auto engineering advances. For example, when the County buys new passenger vehicles for use by, say, a roving social worker, a Ford Focus—which gets about 38 mpg—would typically replace the older, less fuel-efficient Taurus, Holland said. 

Holland said the County regularly uses the surplus auction to recoup maximum value on used cars and trucks.

“Most of the vehicles are good, running vehicles that have reached their useful life to the County,” he said.

For anyone who missed Saturday’s auction, the next County auction is preliminarily scheduled for July 14 in Ramona, McKee said.